This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. For many people, it’s a beloved day in which we celebrate the mothers in our lives, especially our own. We give thanks for their dedication, their love, their strength and tenacity and sacrifice, and their grace in raising us. As part of that celebration, we give presents and share special recognitions or rituals. And often people make a particular point of attending church with their mothers, so many congregations experience a “Mother’s Day spike” in attendance. All of those things are good and beautiful in and for their own sake.
But for many people, Mother’s Day is also a complicated and even difficult day. For some, it is a day when grief makes a special and pronounced visit, as they remember their mother or the mother of their children who has died. And this difficulty is especially true for mothers who have lost their children to death. For others, it is a day of particular pain because they are children estranged from their mothers or mothers estranged from their children, or because they have wanted so badly to become a mother and have been unable to do so for whatever reasons. I have talked to many women who actually avoid coming to church on Mother’s Day for those very reasons.
Mother’s Day has its roots in celebrating mothers around issues of justice and peace. Anna Jarvis, the woman generally credited with getting the official U.S. holiday established, did so to honor her own mother, who was renowned for caring for wounded Civil War soldiers regardless of their allegiances, and for establishing “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” as part of a public health movement that advocated for improved sanitation and reductions in infant mortality.And, of course, Mother’s Day is not a Christian holiday! On the Christian calendar, this Sunday is actually Ascension Sunday, when we celebrate the story of Christ ascending into heaven, concluding his time on earth after the resurrection by returning to God in a living body rather than dying in some other way again.
This Sunday at FPCB, we will be touching on all of these threads. The Scripture and sermon will focus on Ascension Sunday; the prayers of the people will include prayers of celebration, comfort, justice, and peace around mothers; and we will even celebrate a Baptism in which we remember our common calling to be ministers of Christ’s love in all circumstances of life, and our common reception of the gift of Jesus Christ, whom death could not restrain, and who offers us all new and abundant life. I hope to see you there!